Interesting - and accurate - take on the Buffalo Bills' NFL Toronto series by Steve Simmons of The Toronto Sun today in his weekly "Simmons Says'' tidbit column. And I'm pasting it in since the Sun, like many newspapers, like ours, Waterloo Region Record (among the first) has instituted a pay wall so here you go, my comments after even though you should have gotten the drift already based on my headline above . . . here's Steve's take, in italics:Somewhere up above, Bobby Ackles must be smiling.
Almost six years ago, when the announcement was made that the Buffalo Bills would be playing regular-season games in Toronto, it was Ackles, then president of the B.C. Lions, previously involved with the Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals, who screamed the loudest about the NFL’s invasion into Canada.
He thought it was the beginning of the end for the CFL and if not that, the CFL in Toronto. He worried about football’s future right across Canada. In retrospect, Ackles had concerns that never factored in at all.
The Bills In Toronto series has been a blip on the Toronto calendar, a one-day, so-what, annual intrusion that has failed from its original intentions.
The Bills have made no footprint into Southern Ontario; Toronto remains an NFL-mad town, with interest spread right across the league. The one game a year remains an impossible sell, even with discounted tickets and promotional giveaways.
The late Bobby Ackles can rest easy: Whatever this Bills In Toronto series was intended to be hasn’t happened. This series has tripped over itself at every possible turn, right from the beginning. This hasn’t brought Toronto closer to the NFL: If anything, the NFL has never has never seemed further away from this city as it does right now.
Back to Blogovich: Here's the thing: The Bills have been brutal since they started playing regular-season games in Toronto (the first few games were pre-season contests), counting today's 50-17 loss to the nearly point-a-minute (58 last week) Seattle Seahawks. Buffalo is now 1-4, regular season, in Toronto.
Here are Buffalo's records going into the Toronto game each season:
Not exactly a team one would necessarily want to spend big bucks on watching, particularly if they are not exactly your home team. And the fact is and has remained that Canadian Football League games, those involving the hometown Toronto Argonauts included - consistently outperform NFL games in terms of TV ratings which, really, is all that counts for the NFL, certainly, which unlike the CFL realizes most of its revenue from TV, not gate receipts. Each NFL team could play before empty seats all year long and still make, according to 2010 numbers, $120M from TV contracts alone.
And even before this series began, the Bills had been brutal. Buffalo hasn't made the NFL playoffs since 1999, which is also the last time a Bills team won 10 or more games. Only three times during that period has Buffalo been .500 or better overall; and that one time the Bills were better than .500 they were 9-7. It's all here in stark relief at the excellent website profootball.reference.com (and pro hockey, etc.; great site, tell your friends - or don't, because if you refer to it you'll win a lot of sports arguments).
And here's the thing with the Bills and Toronto, regardless. The games sell out, whether the houses are papered or not, whatever the outrageous ticket prices, etc. And southern Ontario folks - latest report I read suggested there are still about 15,000 Bills' season ticket holders who reside in Canada - have always gone to Bills games much as Windsor and London residents have gone to Detroit Lions games, Manitoba fans to Minnesota Vikings games and B.C. residents to Seattle games.
But the fact is, the Bills' greatest popularity in Ontario - including regular coverage by Canadian media - last occurred when ex-CFLer Doug Flutie led them to 10-6 and 11-5 playoff seasons (and then was benched in the infamous Music City Miracle playoff loss to Tennessee) but actually arguably moreso before that during the (losing) Super Bowl appearance years from 1990-93. Loads of Ontario people seemed to follow the Bills then - typical of casual bandwagon jumper 'fans' - but seriously, when's the last time you heard a work colleague, on a Monday morning, initiate a chat about Sunday's Bills' game with you?
Had the Bills played in Toronto back then - and why would they have, they were hugely successful in their own town due to their on-field performance - the Bills-Toronto series would have been a major event because, quite simply, the team was good.
It isn't now. Hasn't been for a long time. Not even close. So why bother?